What to Do When a Photo Shoot Goes Wrong

Written by Backdrop Express Photography Team on . Posted in Photographer Tips

outdoor photographer shooting family portrait

So, the truth is that at some point, when doing location photography, something can and probably will go wrong at a photo shoot. While it’s not the intention here to dwell on the negative, awareness ¬†and preparation can go a long way in handling any inevitable miscues and mishaps. Photo editing after the fact is a great cure to have in your back pocket for some issues, but other issues are best addressed with “an ounce of prevention.”

Invest in Backup Gear

For starters, cameras and many of your accessories are mechanical, so the chances are pretty good that they will malfunction at some time in your career. While this could happen at home, it could also happen during a photo shoot. The message here is that if you can afford it, you should absolutely have backup gear, especially when out on a location or wedding shoot. Even if you mainly shoot portraits, backup gear can give you tremendous peace of mind. Borrow gear from a friend if need be. It will prevent you from having to cancel during a session because your camera won’t work. Beyond your camera and photo gear, there are a myriad of other things that could go wrong at a photo shoot. This is not about scaring you here, just wanting you to be aware of the variety of conditions that could change rapidly in the best of circumstances. The rest of this article will be devoted to helping you to create both a client prep list and a checklist for yourself — the must-haves to bring along with you on the road to any photo shoot in case the unthinkable happens:

Client Prep List

The client prep list is something you should provide to your clients when they sign on with you. You can fine-tune it to meet your own preferences, but here are some basics to get you started:
  • Hair. For women trying out a new hairstyle or haircut for your photo shoot, do so a week and a half beforehand, just in case it isn’t what you’d hoped it would be. For men, a fresh haircut a few days before the photo shoot is fine.
  • Hair accessories. Bring along your favorites, especially if your shoot is outdoors. On a windy day, hair clips, bobby pins and headbands can save the day.
  • Think natural. When it comes to makeup, don’t overdo it!
  • Be well-rested. Get a good night’s sleep and skip the partying the night before your shoot. If you are sleep deprived, use Visine or a similar product to reduce red eye.
  • Avoid bloating. Avoid foods high in salt and fat two to three days before your shoot.
  • Moisturize! Dry skin can really show in photos, so be sure to be adequately hydrated and moisturized.
  • Facial hair. Men, spruce up those beards and goatees on the day of your shoot. Both men and women should pluck and groom their eyebrows.
  • Tanning. If you haven’t tanned in a while, don’t do it the day before a shoot. If you must, opt for a spray tan.
  • Clothing wrinkles. If your outfit is prone to wrinkling, bring it along and change into it once you arrive at the shoot.

male photographer shooting female portrait in field

Your Photo Shoot Checklist

When you take it on the road, you’ll want to make sure you have an arsenal of tools and emergency items to get you through any photo shoot mishap. Here is a checklist of items you might consider assembling into a kit and bringing along to every shoot:

Outdoor Helpers

  • insect repellant
  • sunscreen
  • rain umbrellas
  • a microfiber cloth for cleaning your camera lens
  • towels
  • rain protector for camera — or a plastic bag
  • a collapsible backdrop in case you cannot find that perfect natural background

Studio Helpers

  • a variety of kinds of tape – duct, masking, gaffer’s, packing (clear) and electrical
  • a flashlight
  • rubber bands
  • a tool kit
  • assorted clips and clamps, clothespins
  • ties: rope, string, wire, a roll of fishing line, bungee cords
  • spare batteries for all of your equipment
  • electrical adaptors and extension cords that you might need (such as 3 to 2 prong outlet adaptors)

Client Helpers

  • a travel iron
  • Visine
  • safety pins
  • bobby pins
  • stick pins
  • baby wipes
  • a small sewing kit (or at least a needle and thread)
  • toys and fun props for children’s photo shoots
  • pet treats for pet photography

Personal Items

  • a full spare change of clothes
  • granola bars, trail mix or other sustenance
  • fresh water
  • anti-acid, aspirin or Advil
  • first aid kit

sister holding baby crying

While it’s likely that at some point something will go wrong at a photo shoot, this doesn’t mean you have to live in fear of doing location photography. Photo editing will get you out of some of your binds. However, being as prepared as possible before you even arrive at the shoot can go a long way in giving you and your clients the peace of mind that everything will turn out great.

What is one essential photo shoot item that you never leave home without?

Interested in reading more about how to prepare for a photo shoot? Check out How to Avoid Unexpected Problems During a Photo Shoot!

-Backdrop Express Photography Team

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